Statistically schools might still be some of the safest places in the country and yet when the news flashes the scenes of yet another school shooting parents and grandparents cringe in horror. As we watch scenes of chaos, children running, heavily armed police entering the school and children wounded or dying we can’t help but wonder does my precious little one know how to survive a school shooting? Since the first spate of school shootings in the late 1990’s, (Jonesboro, Pearl, Paducah and Columbine), schools have had an opportunity to prepare their students how to respond to these violent attacks. But beyond practicing lockdown drills what have they really taught our children about surviving an active shooter incident such as Virginia Tech?
Unfortunately, the answer is very little. Teachers receive a minimal amount of instruction, some as little as fifteen minutes, during annual in-service training and most of that revolves around how to lock their doors and wait for the police. Even more disconcerting is that other than practicing their drills once or twice a semester most students receive no training at all.
Should they run, hide or fight and under what circumstances should they take any action at all? A lockdown procedure is a valuable and proven tool to deter offenders but what if their door is breached such as in Newtown or they are left exposed in an open gym or cafeteria like at Columbine?
While conducting research of both the actions taken, and decisions made, by actual victims of these horrific events some obvious commonalities emerged.
Beginning with the basics of how to safely exit, through the need to find cover or conceal oneself from the offender, and finally to the last resort effort of engagement, any student can learn in an age appropriate manner the following six-step ESCAPE Model.
- AS SOON AS POSSIBLE WHEN SAFE TO DO SO
- WITHOUT PRESENTING A TARGET FOR THE SHOOTER
- WITHOUT DRAWING ATTENTION TO YOURSELF
- SEEK COVER BEHIND OR UNDER ITEMS WHICH WILL STOP BULLETS
CONCEAL Yourself –
- HIDE FROM THE OFFENDER(S)
- HIDING IN AN OPEN AREA UNDER TABLES AND CHAIRS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH
- BE CREATIVE IN FINDING PLACES TO HIDE
- REMAIN HIDDEN UNTIL RESCUED BY POLICE
ASSESS all alternatives;
PRESENT a small target;
- STAY LOW
- CRAWL OR RUN IN A CROUCHED POSITION
- ENGAGE ONLY AS A LAST RESORT
- ENGAGE WITH MULTIPLE INDIVIDUALS IF POSSIBLE
Although no training model can guarantee your child’s safety having the knowledge and practicing the skills needed can provide your precious loved one an increased chance of survival.
John Matthews is the executive director of the Community Safety Institute. He is the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival , School Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer, a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.